BRIDGETOWN: Barbados has left the British Queen Elizabeth as head of state, formed a new Republic on Tuesday with its first president and severed its last colonial obligations nearly 400 years after the arrival of the first British ships on a Caribbean island.
During the midnight strike, a new Republic was born to the delight of hundreds of people standing in the Chamberlain Bridge in the capital, Bridgetown. Twenty-one shots were fired during the Barbados national anthem at Heroes Square.
Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, stood with sadness as Queen Elizabeth’s throne was demolished and the new Barbados announced, a move that Republicans hope will spark discussion of similar proposals in other former British colonies with Queen Elizabeth as their monarchy.
Barbados overturns the ousting of Elizabeth II, now queen of 15 other states including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and Jamaica, as a last resort for the demons of its colonial history.
After a spectacular display of Barbados dance and music, complete with speeches celebrating the end of colonialism, Sandra Mason was sworn in as the first president of Barbados in the shadow of the Barbados parliamentary parliament.
“Absolutely stop this colonial page,” Winston Farrell, a Barbadian poet, told the event. “Some have grown up stupid under Union Jack, lost in the castle of their skin.”
“It is up to us to get out of the sugarcane fields and restore our history,” he said. “Finish everything he says, put Bajan there.”
The birth of the republic, 55 years to the day since Barbados proclaimed independence, includes almost all colonial obligations that kept the small island bound in England since the English ship sailed for King James I in 1625.
It may also be an indication of the wider effort of other former colonies to sever ties with the British monarchy as it looks to the end of almost 70 years of Elizabeth’s reign and Charles’ future entry.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley, leader of the Barbados Republican Party, helped lead the event. Mottley has garnered worldwide attention by criticizing the effects of climate change on small Caribbean countries.
“Tonight!” read the main article on the front page of the Daily Nation of Barbados.
“I’m very happy,” Ras Binghi, a tailor in Bridgetown, told Reuters before the event. Binghi said he would be greeting the new republic with a drink and smoke.
History of slaves
Prince Charles will deliver a speech highlighting the ongoing friendship between the two nations despite England’s key role in the Atlantic slave trade.
While Britain cites slavery as a past sin, some Barbadians seek redress in Britain.
Activist David Denny celebrated the creation of the republic but said he opposed the visit of Prince Charles, noting that the royal family has for centuries benefited from the slave trade.
“Our organization would also like the royal family to pay compensation,” Denny said in an interview in Bridgetown.
At first the English used white British laborers to work hard in the fields of tobacco, cotton, indigo and sugar, but Barbados would soon be the first truly profitable slave society in England in a few decades.
Barbados acquired 600,000 African slaves between 1627 and 1833, working in sugar plantations, and acquired wealth from British owners.
More than ten million Africans were enslaved in the Atlantic slave trade by European countries between the 15th and 19th centuries. Survivors of the often brutal journey ended up working hard in the fields.
Barbados will remain a republic within the Commonwealth, a group of 54 countries across Africa, Asia, the United States and Europe.
Aside from the extravagant official event, some Barbadians say they are not sure what a change to the Republic means or why it is so important.
“They should leave Queen Elizabeth and leave her as prime minister. I do not understand why we need to be Republicans,” said Sean Williams, 45, standing in the shadow of the monument to freedom.
The last time the queen was deposed as head of state was in 1992 when the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius declared itself a republic.